Four of the nation’s leading veterans service organizations are urging the Administration and Congress to invest $65.3 billion to sufficiently meet veterans health-care and veterans benefits needs. For the Department of Veterans Affairs, the administration has proposed $61.9 billion in discretionary spending for fiscal year 2012. The budget proposal now goes to Congress for consideration.
The recommendation is contained in The Independent Budget (IB) at www.independentbudget.org — an annual comprehensive budget and policy document, by veterans for veterans. In its 25th year, the IB is coauthored by AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans), and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).
In light of the country’s current fiscal circumstances, the coauthors are pleased that the President’s proposed budget has given veterans an overall increase—even though it does not meet the overall figure recommended in the IB. The organizations, however, have concerns regarding reductions in the key areas of medical and prosthetic research, and construction, as well as unspecified efficiencies.
The Independent Budget recommends $55 billion for health care, $620 million for medical and prosthetic research, $2.3 billion for benefits processing and $2.8 billion for major and minor construction.
“Our nation is at a crossroads, and we have many difficult decisions ahead of us. So now more than ever we must continue to recognize the needs of our returning veterans as a top national priority and a moral imperative,” said AMVETS National Commander Jerry Hotop. “Full implementation of The Independent Budget recommendations will ensure the sufficient and timely funding of VA, which is crucial to delivering the health care and benefits each of our veterans has earned through their sustained sacrifices. The honorable and selfless service of our American heroes deserves no less.”
Recommended improvements include better use of electronic information systems to speed up claims processing. Given the significant difficulties facing many veterans and their families as a result of the current economy, rapid approval of their benefits will provide much-needed help to deal with the hardships associated with unemployment and loss of health insurance.
“Our government is honor-bound to provide the resources that will guarantee timely, accurate decisions on disability compensation claims and all funding necessary to ensure prompt access to a full range of top-quality health care for our nation’s veterans,” said DAV National Commander Wallace E. Tyson. “The recommendations in The Independent Budget are the result of a comprehensive, needs-based assessment of what it will take to meet the moral obligation to those who have served and sacrificed for our country and ideals.”
As our nation faces a volatile economic recovery, the IB recommends that Congress appropriate sufficient funding to address the full scope of medical care and benefits delivery.
“We urge the Administration and Congress to adopt all of The Independent Budget’s recommendations. Our nation’s veterans have served, sacrificed and paid in full for their benefits and health care. Our government leaders must do the right thing for those who make our freedoms possible,” said Bill Lawson, national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America.
For the past 25 years, The Independent Budget has been a blueprint for the resource requirements for VA. It has served as a voice of advocacy for America’s veterans by providing the White House and Congress with a roadmap for funding the Department of Veterans Affairs. At no time in our history has the need of the returning veteran been so great, the service of VA so critical and the recommendations of the IB so relevant as they are today. Full implementation of the IB recommendations will ensure the sufficient funding so crucial to delivering the health care and other benefits our veterans have earned.
“A nation that creates veterans has a sacred responsibility to care for them when they return home wounded and disabled," said Richard L. Eubank, national commander of the 2.1 million member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and its Auxiliaries. “We look forward to working with the Administration and Congress to keep that promise.”